Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: Lack of faith means Britain is ‘losing the plot’ – Jewish religious leader blames increasing secularisation for breakdown of institutions


Britain is “losing the plot” because its increasingly secular society has led to a breakdown of trust affecting marriage, child poverty and the economy, the outgoing Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, said on Sunday.

Lord Sacks, who became one of the country’s highest profile religious commentators in 22 years as Chief Rabbi, said in an interview that “individualism is no way to build a society” and that religious faith helped bolster trust in society as a whole.

However, the National Secular Society dismissed the suggestion, saying secularism had led to a fairer, more tolerant society in which people thought for themselves and were “less obedient” to religions.

Lord Sacks, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, said that the idea of the “big society” was strongest in the UK’s different religions “because that’s what we do, we care for one another”.

But, asked whether Britain was more or less fractured than it had been, he said: “I think we’re losing the plot actually. I think we haven’t really noticed what’s happening in Britain.”

Lord Sacks pointed to the 2008 banking crisis as one example of the problems caused by a lack of religion. “When you begin to lose faith and society becomes very, very secularised, you first see a breakdown of institutions, whether they are financial, economic or… marriage is an institution,” he said.

“And then you ask why they have broken down and you arrive at one word: trust. Trust means having faith in somebody else to keep their faith with you, so there’s something about religious faith that undergirds trust as a whole in society and when trust breaks down you see institutions break down.

“Individualism is no way to build a society… if people work for the maximum possible benefit to themselves, then we will not have trust in industry, economics and financial institutions, we will not see marriages last.”

He said some non-religious parents wanted their children to attend faith schools because they recognised this and wanted their offspring “to grow up with a strong moral sense”.

Lord Sacks said politicians were “part of the breakdown of marriage in the West” over the past 50 years, but he did not blame them or governments for the general lack of trust. “It’s the fault of what we call culture, which is society talking to itself,” he said.

“The truth is that the breakdown of marriage has meant the creation of an entirely new phenomenon of child poverty affecting three million children in Britain today that we thought had been eliminated. So children get to be the victims.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, agreed with Lord Sacks. “Having moved from a generation that put the common good first, we have now created a culture which puts ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ first,” he said. “This inevitably has consequences for society and Lord Sacks is right to reiterate what Christian leaders have been saying for years.”

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said Lord Sacks’ idea that secularisation had led to a decline in trust was “not surprising” but “unfortunate”.

“I think a secular society is a fairer society, where everybody is treated equally, regardless of their beliefs or non-belief,” he said. “I don’t think that the move away from religion is anything to do with trust in society at all. Society, as it has become more educated, has become less blindly obedient, particularly to religion.”



4 replies

  1. Mr Wood did not touch the basic point of breakdown of the institution marriage that resulted into break down of family which has been the root of keeping people to gather, real love between family members expanding the love and sense of care between members of the societ, nation and humanity. To days burning issue of child poverty originates from break down of marriage institution producing children, which are practically motherless and fatherless. Result is not only chid poverty but leads to the path of crimes in the society. During these year an very important book has come in the market, it’s name, probably is Dear Father Dear Son. The point highlighted in book is the plight of the kids of so called,Single Mothers. There is no father in hose hold and then what you can expect in such a set…….every type of ills eroding sanctity of the entire society. This note should. Be enough for the moment . A serious dialog is must be started. Abdul shakoor

  2. Adding to my comments, for following and adopting the system of marriage you may not nesissarily be a religios persons . This system already exists in nature. Both in many type of animals and birds even. We observe that when an animal and bird finally chooses its mate. They stick together and they have their ‘ Kds’ they take care of them by heart and soul and feed them and protect them to their best. The human advocates of bound less freedom need to learn, again, from these non – human creation, although human creation is best of all creations. Abdul Shakoor

  3. Thank you dear Abdul Shakoor Sahib for your valuable comments.

    You and the Rabbi have brought out a very important issue. Whereas in the sphere of governance in modern countries, we need separation of Mosque-Church and State, so that every one is treated equally, in our personal and social life we need religious values to guide us or we fall prey to extreme forms of selfishness or relativism losing direction in our life.

    I will soon write an article on the topic of Did you Anchor Your Boat?

  4. As for the term Secularism it has been confused with Atheism. In fact it means, affairs of State and mosque/church/ sinigouge/ temple should be kept separate because the latter is purely an individual’s personal affair. State’ function is to run the state and serve its people and their personal rights. And also must not indulge in making laws which are cotrary to religious norms of any religion. Institution of marriage is one of the most important norm / injunctions. Keeping sides with the so called ‘ secularists’ in the matters witch are basic components of persons who believe in religion. Indulgence in such issues by the State, is equally contrary to the basic rights of the citizens who follows of a religion. Trying to keep happy one section of the citzens against desirs / believes of other section of citizens is equally against justice and equality. So a real Secular State is one that does not indulge in the matters which creates such a scenario . State must stay away from all this and let people live their lives according to their own believes or ways of life. Further that , the people who say they secular and believe I God Almighty and at same time do not honor the one of the basic injunctions God’s sent religion, are Not secular they need to clearly understand this point. Abdul Shakoor

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